[POSTPONED] Celebrating Edward Bunker
This program has been postponed.
Join us in celebrating the second annual Edward Bunker Prize in Fiction, an award in PEN America’s three-decade-running Prison Writing Contest, which recognizes excellence in the work of incarcerated writers. The award honors Mr. Bunker’s work in illuminating the tenacious path from the identity of prisoner to writer. We are proud to celebrate not only Mr. Bunker’s contribution to letters and film, but also his continued influence on a new generation of writers who show deep dedication to, and passion for, the craft of writing, and a compelling creative vision.
About Edward Bunker
Edward Heward Bunker (December 31, 1933–July 19, 2005) was an American author of crime fiction, a screenwriter, and an actor. Bunker wrote numerous books—some of which have been adapted into major motion pictures featuring prominent actors such as Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight—and was a screenwriter on Straight Time (1978), Runaway Train (1985), and Animal Factory (2000). Bunker also appears on screen as an actor in a number of films, most famously as Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs. And like many of the writers who reach out to the PEN America Prison and Justice Writing Program, Mr. Bunker was involved with the justice system for decades before finding significant success as a writer and actor.
The PEN America/Edward Bunker Prize in Fiction awards the work of a cohort of incarcerated fiction writers who show exceptional talent and merit in the genre.
Natashia Deón is an NAACP Image Award Nominee, practicing criminal attorney, law professor, and Creative Writing Professor for UCLA and Otis College of Art & Design. Author of the critically acclaimed novel, GRACE, which was named a Best Book by the New York Times, Deón is also a wife, mother of two, and her new novel, The Perishing, is due out in 2021.
Deón was a 2017 U.S. Delegate to Armenia as part of the U.S. Embassy’s reconciliation project between Turkey and Armenia in partnership with the University of Iowa and is a Pamela Krasney Moral Courage Fellow. In that role, she founded REDEEMED, a criminal record clearing and clemency project that pairs writers with those who have been convicted of crimes.
A PEN America Fellow, Deón has also been awarded fellowships and residencies at Yale, Prague’s Creative Writing Program, Dickinson House in Belgium and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She has been featured in TIME Magazine, PeopleMagazine, Red Book, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, American Short Fiction, Buzzfeed and other places.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Parisa Fitz-Henley grew up between the island and Gulfport, Florida. She began acting in New York, acquiring an array of experiences in film, television and theater. Parisa can currently be seen in theaters in Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, season three of USA Network’s critically acclaimed series The Sinner, and action-comedy My Spy for STX Entertainment. She was a series regular on NBC’s Midnight, Texas and won the hearts of superhero fans playing Reva Connors in MARVEL’s Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Parisa rounds out her creative endeavors with singing and songwriting in the duo Would Be Royals.
Ryan Gattis is the author of Safe, Kung Fu High School, and All Involved: A Novel of the 1992 L.A. Riots, which won the American Library Association’s Alex Award and the Lire Award for Noir of the Year in France. He lives and writes in Los Angeles, where he is a member of street art crew UGLARworks, and a PEN America Prison Writing Mentor.
Emily Jones has appeared in many theatrical productions at The Artful Rose, Goodspeed’s Festival of New Musicals, The Ark Theatre Company, Jean’s Playhouse, Peterborough Players, and The Hartt School. Emily received her BFA in Music Theatre from The Hartt School and is currently training at The Groundlings. Emily lives in Los Angeles and is honored to be a part of this event.
Darrell Larson is an actor/director/writer/producer. his acclaimed production of THE UNSEEN HAND/KILLER’S HEAD by Sam Shepard just closed at the Odyssey Theater in LA.
Recently, he staged Deanne Stillman’s Reflections in a D’Back’s Eye, based on the Gaby Gifford shooting. Acting credits include the films Mike’s Murder, Frances, and Stepmom. Larson has made several appearances on Law and Order and vintage shows like Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Marcus Welby, M.D. He adapted, directed, and produced The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True, a benefit for the Children’s Defense Fund at Lincoln Center featuring Jackson Browne, Roger Daltrey, Nathan Lane, Jewel, Debra Winger, Natalie Cole, and many more.
Caits Meissner is PEN America’s Prison and Justice Writing Program director. Before joining PEN America, Meissner was an integral team member in developing community arts and education programs for organizations such as Tribeca Film Institute, The Bronx Academy of Letters, Urban Arts Partnership, The Facing History School, and The Lower Eastside Girls Club. She has taught, consulted, and co-created extensively for over 15 years across a wide spectrum of communities with a focus on prisons, public schools, and college classrooms at The New School University and The City College of New York. From 2012–2014, Meissner served over 500 women worldwide in an original intensive online writing course that matured into live programming, including a reading series, courses for incarcerated youth and adult women, and state-sponsored cultural exchange in Malaysia. In 2017, Meissner reenvisioned the concept of book tour for her illustrated poetry collection Let It Die Hungry (The Operating System, 2016), pairing public speaking engagements with opportunities to work with incarcerated writers across the United States. Meissner holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York, where she was awarded The Jerome Lowell DeJur Prize in Creative Writing, an Educational Enrichment Award, and The Teacher-Writer Award. She is deeply invested in the transformative, restorative, and change-making capacities of imagination and creativity.
Robert Pollock is PEN America’s Prison Writing Program Manager. For over a decade, he has worked with the justice system and its intersection with the arts. He is an ongoing participant in Rehabilitation Through the Arts, Musicambia, Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, and Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections Advisory Committee. He has collaborated with the Fortune Society, Osborne Association, and several NYC grassroots organizations. He has participated in workshops and panels at Columbia, Harvard, NYU, Yale, and other universities to advocate for the power of the arts in prison education and restorative justice practices. As a visual artist, he illustrated the picture book for children of incarcerated parents, Sing Sing Midnight, which is used in therapeutic settings around the country. As a singer-songwriter, his compositions have been heard at the Obama White House, the RFK Human Rights Foundation, Create Justice forums, the Vera Institute of Justice Gala, the New York Ethical Society, and Carnegie Hall. Robert is a Fall 2019 New York Community Trust Leadership Fellow.
Joseph Rios is the author of Shadowboxing: Poems and Impersonations (Omnidawn). He is from Fresno’s San Joaquin Valley. He’s been a gardener, a janitor, a packing house supervisor, and a handyman. He is a recipient of scholarships from the Community of Writers Workshop at Squaw Valley and CantoMundo. He is a VONA alumnus and a Macondo Fellow. In 2015, he received the John K. Walsh residency fellowship from the University of Notre Dame. In 2016, his debut poetry collection was chosen by Claudia Rankine as a finalist for Omnidawn’s first book prize. He was named one of the notable Debut Poets by Poets & Writers Magazine for 2017 and was a finalist for a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent fellowship. He is a graduate of Fresno City College and the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Los Angeles.
Luis J. Rodriguez is a multi-genre writer with 16 books from publishers like Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Seven Stories Press, Curbstone Books, and Lee & Low. He’s the author of the bestselling memoir, Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. The sequel, It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions & Healing, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He’s also founding editor of Tia Chucha Press and co-founder of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore. A former Los Angeles Poet Laureate, Luis’ latest book is From Our Land to Our Land: Essays, Journeys & Imaginings from a Native Xicanx Writer.